Derry or Londonderry as it is known North of the border, is an ideal place to base yourself if you intend exploring the North of Ireland, the city itself and /or Donegal. What a wonderful city and in my opinion a million times better and more interesting than Belfast. The city which was divided between the protestant Riverside and the catholic Bogside was very ‘troubled’ during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s but is now enjoying a renaissance thanks to the Northern Ireland Peace agreement in 1998 and it being this years European City of Culture. In fact, there seems to be far more going on here in terms of the arts, music and entertainment in 2013 than in the whole of the rest of Ireland including the all Ireland Fleadh Ceoil coming up in August....
There has been a huge and obivous investment in the city, which is spick and span with the gleaming Peace Bridge as its centre piece spanning the River Foyle. Never mind the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, this is the one you want ‘to do’. For a city that was once upon a time bitterly and bloodily divided, this is their symbol of peace and of bringing the two communities together. And it works, 24/7 there are people on and about this beautiful bridge and even if you haven’t a clue about the history of city it will give you the shivers as you resonate with the possibility of peace either on a personal level or throughout the world with all war and strife that is going on these days, it is difficult to explain....
The only way to understand this incredible city’s rebirth and to get under its skin is to take a walking tour of the city’s medieval walls which have remained intact and un-breached since the 17th century. Martin McCrossan has been leading tours here for over 20 years so he knows his stuff and how to deliver it in a balanced way. Even for me, Irish born and bred we were fed a biased view, at home, in school and in the media so it was very good to finally ‘get’ Derry and the whole ‘troubles’ in the North, which I still don’t think would have been possible without seeing the actual places and their locations. Whether it is the bonfires being prepared for the 12th July or the murals on the sides of the houses in the Bogside or the actual Ferry Quay gate where the 13 original Apprentice Boys uttered those infamous words “No surrender” when the city was besieged in 1688.
Other famous landmarks pointed out on the tour (for revisiting later on) are the St Columb's cathedral and St Augustine's church, The Apprentice Boys Hall, the Guildhall and Tower Museum.
Top 10 Things To Do and See in and around Derry City.
1 Walk across the river Foyle via the new Peace Bridge.
2 Visit the magnificent Guild Hall which has recently been re-opened and admire the wonderful stained glass windows, admission is free.
3 Check out the Tower Museum to find out more about the Derry City's history and see the canons salvaged from the Spanish shipwreck, La Trinidad Valancera which sank off Donegal in 1588.
4 Go shopping in world's oldest department store Austin's, a most impressive and extravagant building (for its time) on the corner of Diamond square
5 Take a guided walking tour of Derry Citys’ Walls with Martin McCrossan, it's the best £4 you will spend while in Derry.
6 Go on a pub crawl, taking in Badgers (good Guinness stew), Peadair O'Donnells (traditional music everynight) Gweedore (next door) Sandinos (named after a Nicaraguan revolutionary, don't ask?)
7 Take a helicopter flight over the city with Cutting Edge Helicopters, the only charter helicopter operators in the North of Ireland, they also do scenic flights over Inishowen and the Giants Causeway. They will even drop you off at Bushmills Inn for lunch and pick you up later on their fly and dine package.
8 Visit the Faughan Valley, a quiet natural oasis just 5 miles outside of the city at Ness Woods, with miles of new riverside and forest walkways it is a real hidden gem.
9 Follow Michael Palin's advice and take one of the most scenic train rides in the world which follows the coastline along Lough Swilly and out and around Binevenagh Head via Benone strand and on into Coleraine.
10 Explore the Inishowen Peninsula either by ferry from Magilligan's Point or via the Foyle Bridge and on out to Bridge End (Lough Swilly) or Muff (Lough Foyle)